I picked up Ivy's Ever After at a Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) event because there was a dragon on the cover. I have always loved dragons. I can't resist them. Princesses, however, do not usually excite me. I've seen it all before, the princess in need of rescuing. But when I started reading, Ivy surprised me. She wasn't this tiny, helpless thing. She was strong, and challenged the old ways of thinking. I kept reading... Then I contacted the author, Dawn Lairamore.
We were facebook friends from previously meeting at that SCBWI workshop. I told her how I loved her book and asked for an interview. She kindly agreed. Below are the questions I posed to author.
1. I saw you at the 2010 SCBWI conference. What do you think about meeting writers on facebook? At SCBWI events?
Angie, you have a great memory! I was indeed at the SCBWI conference at Mills College in 2010. It was a fabulous conference! I am so grateful for the opportunity to meet other writers online and through SCBWI.
In my opinion, one of the best things about writers--and especially children's writers--is what a wonderful sense of community they have. You get a lot of encouragement and support and opportunities to promote your books, like being invited by very kind people to give interviews on their blogs ;-) I think it's incredibly valuable to network with other writers, and how lucky are we that in this day and age there are so many fantastic and convenient ways in which to do that, online and through writers' organizations/groups.
2. Ivy is a strong willed character. How is she like you?
I often get asked if Ivy is based on me when I was that age. Truth be told, I think Ivy is more the 14-year-old I would have liked to have been (courageous, independent, sure of herself) than the 14-year-old I was (shy and kind of awkward).
Ivy has her awkward moments, too, though. She definitely marches to the beat of her own drum, and sometimes her lack of conformity brings trouble. More than once, she questions whether she should behave more like a traditional princess and acutely feels the pressure to do so.
I can definitely relate to feeling that way. As a teenager, I absolutely felt the pressure to conform, to dress and behave a certain way, to hang with a certain crowd. Perhaps that is why one of my favorite things about Ivy is her sense of individuality, and her willingness to fight to keep it.
3. What draws you to write about dragons?
I've always had a fascination with dragons. There is a lot of wonderful mythology surrounding them. I used to dream about dragons sometimes when I was younger, especially flying around on a large golden one.
4. Do you believe dragons were ever real?
It's interesting how dragons play a role in the myths and folklore of so many different cultures around the whole. One theory is that ancient societies discovered dinosaur bones and invented a mythological creature to explain where these gigantic bones came from. So in that sense--yes, "dragons" once roamed the earth.
5. Do you think the book would work if a prince was locked away and had to wait to be rescued by a princess?
I love stories that add a non-traditional twist, so sure, that might would for another story. I rather like Ivy's story the way that it is.
6. Describe your book in 5 words.
Hmmmmmm...five words would be hard. How about a haiku instead? I like haikus, and there are five-word phrases in that:
Princess and dragon
Team up against handsome prince
7. All the names your MC, Ivy, has are interesting: Ivory, Isadora, Imperia, Irene. Do any of them have significant meaning to you?
Not particularly. I just thought a princess needed a properly long and formal name, and Princess Ivory Isadora Imperia Irene fit the bill. Of course, trust my very improper princess to shorten her name to Ivy, which suits her infinitely better. I think it makes one think of wild growth, of something untamed. It seemed perfect for her personality and for someone who loves to spend time in nature as much as she does.
8. Who do you like best: Ivy or Elridge?
Oh, that's a tough one! I don't honestly think I could pick. I am very, very fond of them both. They are so very different, but both very special to me.
9. What book best helped you in researching trolls, dragons, swamp spirits, and fairy godmothers?
I get asked about what I researched a lot, but the truth is I didn't actually do much research for IVY'S EVER AFTER. So much of it is based off the traditional fairy tales that most of us know and love. There wasn't much need for additional research. I looked up little things here and there, like diagrams of castles to make sure I was using correct terminology when it came to the different parts, but I didn't do much in the way of in depth research.
10. What one word best describes you?
The one word I'd like to describe me is "good-hearted." It's what I try to strive for.
11. What time do you wake up and what do you eat for breakfast?
It really varies. This morning I was up at about 9 am. Yesterday, it was about 7:30. Breakfast varies, too. Some mornings it's something quick and easy, like cereal or toast. When I have the time for a more leisurely breakfast, I love two eggs over easy and homemade hash browns.
12. What is the weirdest bit about dragons you came across while researching for your book?
I did read something once about a type of medieval dragon that was fairly small and hid inside wells. When someone came to draw water from the well, the dragon would pop out and snatch the unfortunate person. I remember thinking that this little dragon sounded both very clever and really scary. Thank goodness most of us use faucets these days.
13. You dedicated this book to Dad and Mom, why?
It was my way of saying thank you for all they've done for me over the years. My dad, in particular, was instrumental in cultivating my love of reading. He's a big reader himself, and he was always taking me to bookstores and libraries as a kid, always making sure there were books around the house. He definitely passed his love of reading onto me.
14. I love the idea that the princess is strong, and can take on the evil prince. Why did this tale need to be told?
As much as I love fairy tales, there are a lot of outdated mentalities associated with them, such as the rather weak roles of females and the value placed on beauty and good looks. I think modern audiences need stories that challenge such old-fashioned notions.
15. Who is most proud of you?
I'd like to think that all of my family and friends are proud. I sure hope so.
16. Do you have a critique group? If so, how has it helped?
Not a traditional critique group, no. I'm a loner for much of the writing process, as I feel I need to focus on telling the story the way I believe it needs to be told. Soliciting feedback early in the process can be distracting for me. I'm still feeling out the story myself, so I'm not ready for other people's opinions yet, especially if they cause me to question where I think the story needs to go.
For this reason, I never let anyone read a manuscript until I have a complete first or second draft. Once I have an entire story, I think feedback is incredibly valuable. If the story is confusing at any point or needs polishing in a certain area or there are any other issues, I want to address that, so I think it is very useful to solicit feedback at that point. That's when I start hitting up friends, family members, and writer buddies and offer to buy them lunch if they will read my latest manuscript and tell me what they think :)
17. Did you ever want to give up on this novel?
I never wanted to give up, but there were definitely times when I wanted to take a break--and did! Sometimes taking time away from a manuscript is the best way to renew your enthusiasm for the project. Writing a book is a lot of work. It can overwhelm you if you're not careful.
18. What author would you most recommend to your audience?
There is no one author. One of the greatest things about books is that there are so many wonderful stories and so many brilliant writers. Read often and widely.
19. What made you believe in yourself as a writer?
Gosh, I still have days when I *don't* believe in myself as a writer. But hearing readers, especially young readers, say that they've enjoyed something I've written is the most affirming and uplifting thing.
20. How can my blog readers help you to become and even bigger success?
I would love it if they visited my website, www.dawnbooks.com and shared the link around.
There you can read chapters from both IVY'S EVER AFTER, and the sequel, IVY AND THE MEANSTALK, as well as find out more about the books, learn some "behind the scene" info, watch the book trailer, etc.